Should I Let My Dog Lick Me So Much?

As a dog owner, you may have noticed your furry friend is quite fond of licking you – especially your face. While this behavior can be endearing, some people are left wondering if it’s actually safe and healthy to allow it. In this article, we’ll dive into the topic of dog licking and explore the pros and cons of this behavior.

Understanding why dogs lick humans

Dogs use their mouths as a primary way of exploring the world around them. Licking is just one of the many ways in which they do this. A dog’s sense of smell is incredibly powerful, and by licking, they can taste things in the air and on your skin. It’s also a way for them to communicate with you – to show affection, request attention, or even appease your anxiety. In some cases, a dog may lick excessively due to underlying health issues or anxiety, which we’ll discuss further below.

It’s important to note that not all licking is friendly or affectionate. Dogs may also lick as a sign of submission or to assert dominance over another dog or human. It’s important to pay attention to your dog’s body language and the context in which they are licking to understand their intentions. If you notice excessive or unusual licking behavior, it’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.

This article is part of my series onĀ Why Does My Dog Lick The Couch?

The risks associated with excessive dog licking

While most of the time dog licking is completely harmless, there are some risks associated with excessive licking. Firstly, their tongues are not clean. They lick everything from the ground to their genitals, which can transfer harmful bacteria and viruses to open wounds, eyes, and mouth. Therefore, excessive licking should be avoided if you have a compromised immune system or are already unwell. Additionally, a dog’s saliva can cause skin irritation and allergies in some people.

Another risk associated with excessive dog licking is the potential for behavioral issues. Dogs may lick excessively due to anxiety, stress, or boredom. If left unchecked, this behavior can become compulsive and lead to further problems such as skin damage or even self-harm. It is important to address the underlying cause of the excessive licking and provide appropriate training or enrichment activities to redirect their behavior.

Furthermore, excessive licking can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Dogs may lick excessively due to pain, discomfort, or an allergic reaction. If you notice your dog licking excessively, it is important to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues and provide appropriate treatment.

Benefits of dog licking for humans

Despite the risks, there are also numerous benefits to allowing your dog to lick occasionally. One of the most significant is the bonding effect it has on humans and dogs. Research has shown that when a dog licks a human, both parties experience a surge of oxytocin – the hormone associated with affection and bonding. Furthermore, dog saliva contains enzymes that can help promote wound healing in minor cuts and scrapes.

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Another benefit of dog licking for humans is that it can help reduce stress and anxiety. The act of petting and interacting with a dog has been shown to lower cortisol levels in humans, which is the hormone associated with stress. When a dog licks a human, it can have a calming effect and further reduce stress levels.

Additionally, allowing your dog to lick your face and hands can help boost your immune system. Studies have shown that exposure to the bacteria found in dog saliva can help strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of allergies and asthma in children who grow up with dogs.

How to train your dog to control licking

If your dog’s licking behavior is becoming a problem, you can work with a trainer to teach them alternative ways of communicating with you. For example, you can train them to put their paw on you or nudge your hand for attention. You can also use positive reinforcement techniques to reward them when they don’t lick you excessively.

It’s important to note that excessive licking can also be a sign of anxiety or stress in dogs. If you suspect this may be the case, it’s important to address the underlying issue through behavior modification and possibly consulting with a veterinarian. Additionally, providing your dog with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation can also help reduce their urge to lick excessively.

Signs that your dog’s licking behavior is problematic

If your dog’s licking behavior has increased suddenly or they seem to do it excessively, it may be a sign that something is wrong. For example, they could be experiencing anxiety or stress, or they could have a medical issue that needs addressing. Other signs to look out for include skin redness or irritations, diarrhea or vomiting, and lethargy or a lack of appetite.

Another sign that your dog’s licking behavior may be problematic is if they are licking a specific area of their body excessively. This could indicate a wound or injury that needs attention. Additionally, if your dog is licking objects or surfaces excessively, it could be a sign of a compulsive behavior that requires training or behavior modification.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of your dog’s licking behavior. They may recommend medical treatment, behavior modification techniques, or a combination of both to address the issue and improve your dog’s overall health and well-being.

Tips for reducing excessive dog licking

If you’re concerned about excessive dog licking, there are a few things you can do to try and reduce the behavior. Firstly, try to redirect their attention to a toy or a treat instead. You can also reinforce positive behaviors, such as sitting calmly by your side. Finally, be sure to provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to keep your dog mentally and physically healthy.

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Another way to reduce excessive dog licking is to identify the underlying cause. Sometimes, dogs lick excessively due to anxiety, boredom, or even pain. If you suspect that your dog’s licking behavior is related to an underlying issue, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer to address the problem.

It’s also important to establish clear boundaries with your dog. If your dog is licking excessively, it’s important to communicate to them that the behavior is not acceptable. You can do this by using a firm tone of voice and redirecting their attention to a more appropriate behavior. Consistency is key when it comes to establishing boundaries with your dog.

The importance of maintaining good personal hygiene around dogs

To ensure your safety and that of your dog, it’s essential to maintain good personal hygiene. Always wash your hands thoroughly after touching your dog, especially after they have licked you. Don’t allow your dog to lick open wounds or your face if you’re sick. Finally, be sure to keep up with your dog’s vaccines and flea and tick prevention to protect both of you from illnesses that can be transmitted by dogs.

In addition to the above, it’s important to regularly groom your dog to prevent the buildup of dirt and bacteria on their fur. This can be done through regular brushing and bathing. It’s also important to clean your dog’s bedding and toys regularly to prevent the spread of germs.

Another important aspect of maintaining good personal hygiene around dogs is to be aware of their bathroom habits. Always clean up after your dog and dispose of their waste properly to prevent the spread of diseases. It’s also important to keep your dog away from areas where other dogs may have relieved themselves, such as dog parks or public sidewalks.

Understanding the connection between dog saliva and human health

While dog saliva can contain bacteria and viruses that can cause infections in humans, it’s important to note that the risk is generally low. If you have a healthy immune system, your body can usually fend off most harmful pathogens. However, if you have a compromised immune system or an open wound, you should take extra precautions to avoid dog licking.

It’s also worth noting that some people may be more susceptible to infections from dog saliva than others. For example, young children, elderly individuals, and pregnant women may have weaker immune systems and therefore be at a higher risk of infection. Additionally, certain breeds of dogs may have a higher likelihood of carrying harmful bacteria in their saliva.

Despite the potential risks, many people still enjoy close contact with their dogs, including allowing them to lick their faces. If you choose to allow your dog to lick you, it’s important to practice good hygiene habits, such as washing your hands and face regularly, and keeping any open wounds covered and clean. By taking these precautions, you can minimize the risk of infection and continue to enjoy the many benefits of having a furry companion.

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Alternatives to letting your dog excessively lick you

If you’re concerned about the risks associated with excessive dog licking or just don’t enjoy the sensation, there are plenty of alternatives that you can try. For example, you can teach your dog to give you a high five or to snuggle up on your lap instead. You can also provide them with a chew toy or puzzle feeder to keep them occupied.

Another alternative to consider is redirecting your dog’s licking behavior towards an appropriate object, such as a lick mat or frozen treat. This can help satisfy their natural urge to lick without it being directed towards you. Additionally, providing your dog with regular exercise and mental stimulation can help reduce their need to excessively lick as a form of stress relief.

In Conclusion

In summary, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether you should let your dog lick you. While there are some risks associated with the behavior, there can also be significant benefits, such as bonding and wound healing. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what feels comfortable for you and your dog – just be sure to maintain good personal hygiene and pay attention to any signs that your dog’s behavior is problematic.

It’s important to note that some dogs may have a tendency to lick excessively, which can be a sign of anxiety or other underlying health issues. If you notice your dog licking excessively or compulsively, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions and address any behavioral concerns.

Additionally, it’s important to consider the potential risks of allowing your dog to lick you, especially if you have a weakened immune system or open wounds. While the risk of contracting an infection from your dog’s saliva is relatively low, it’s still important to practice good hygiene and avoid letting your dog lick your face or any open wounds.

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